Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all benefits package.
The trend of benefits coverage in recent years has been toward adopting more agile, comprehensive, and personalized packages for employees. The pandemic then solidified this trend as it laid bare obvious gaps in coverage for workers. Crisis-stricken employees found themselves requiring customized support—some for mental health counseling to grapple with the isolation, some for family wellbeing as they cared for a high-risk member of their house, and many for the peculiar financial strain of covid. As employers rushed to adapt by adopting emergency supplemental programs, the inequity of these programs was likewise rushed into the spotlight. Some groups of employees were covered while others were excluded.
As we continue to grapple with the realities of covid and the impact it has on the care we receive, trailblazing employers are looking to make equitable changes to benefits packages. An effort which could positively impact the lives of millions of Americans.
It is useful here to define benefits equity and explain what it looks like.
Essentially, it means recognizing an employee’s individuality and facilitating them in the most meaningful ways. For example, “childcare” benefits close the door on those with different types of dependents within their home—these benefits wouldn’t apply to the 53 million Americans caring for aging loved ones, or the roughly 6 million caring for a family member with intellectual disabilities. Executive financial planning services are more exclusionary than financial literacy and wellbeing counseling. The human experience varies widely and considering this variety can lead to a more comprehensive (and competitive) benefits package.
Here are five major areas to consider when thinking about benefits equity:
Over 1 in 5 workers avoided medical care because of the potentially massive price tag. 90% of Americans found the cost of financial planning to be cost prohibitive, so they forewent it entirely. These factors drive top teams to develop plans that educate and empower employees to pursue holistic wellness. Working with Certified Financial Planners and other external experts can help ease an employee’s anxiety about engaging with these daunting entities. A welcome byproduct is the trust it engenders between employee and employer.
The only thing constant is change. Chances are that the needs of your newest hire will change as the years go on. During their employment they might buy a house, become a parent, plan a wedding—any of which will fundamentally alter what they need in their benefits coverage. By providing options and flexibility, you can better support all employees regardless of their changing circumstances.
With expanded choice comes a caveat—more options lead to decision fatigue. Sifting through thousands of PDFs riddled with industry jargon can cross anyone’s eyes. This is where personalization comes in, focusing on giving your people personalized experiences to streamline their decision-making process and maximize their coverage.
Different businesses have different workforces which have different needs, but there are some things that benefit all people. Programs available 24/7 with virtual and on-site support remove potential complications of varied schedules. Text-to-speech audio options, or closed captioning on videos can benefit team members even if they haven’t disclosed any disabilities. This sense of inclusion ripples outward to a positive workplace culture.
Feeling seen and supported can change the way an employee interacts with your company. While many programs offer Financial Planning professionals, they might not accurately reflect the demographics of your workforce. The same can be said of medical and mental health care. Representation matters. When your employee receives services from someone who looks like them, comes from a similar background, and personally understands their challenges, it can positively alter their trajectory both personally and professionally. Find programs with diversity and inclusion woven into the fabric of their offerings and witness the change in the way your people interact with their benefits and your business.
Committing to providing equitable benefits creates a sense of inclusion that employees value. It’s good for your brand, good for your business, and ultimately good for your people. When people feel represented, their sense of belonging grows. When we feel like we belong, we can do tremendous things together.